Modern organ building in traditional craftsmanship
The consecration of the new main organ in Speyer Cathedral will be a music event of the highest order. On 18 September 2011 the new organ with its 85 registers and 5,556 pipes will sound out for the first time at a concert in the cathedral. The organ was built in the Lower Rhine region, at Orgelbau Seifert in Kevelaer. In 2010 the organ builders celebrated the 125th anniversary of the workshop, which was founded in Cologne in 1885 by Ernst Seifert, originally from Thuringia, and which, five generations later, is today run by Roman Seifert in Kevelaer. Ernst Seifert earned the start-up capital to set up his company by selling a patent for a completely new sort of windchest system in which the air is steered into the pipes through small leather membranes. The three sons of the company founder built organs in Cologne, Bergisch-Gladbach and Kevelaer. Yet the production site in the Lower Rhine region is the only one to have survived to this day.
The company became based in Kevelaer because of a large order. In 1907 the largest organ in the German empire was supposed to be built for the Church of St. Mary in Kevelaer. A condition of the commission to Ernst Seifert was that he set up a branch in Kevelaer. The organ for the Church of St. Mary was the biggest to leave the workshop at that time. With its 149 registers, today it is still an imposing instrument that impresses the numerous Catholic pilgrims visiting to honor the Virgin Mary. Seifert stayed in Kevelaer because the Cologne-Nimwegen rail line that opened in 1865 brought with it good prospects. In 1907 Seifert also built the organ in the Quirinus-Münster church in Neuss.
Orgelbau Seifert is a story with highs and lows. Roman Seifert's grandfather also built cinema organs in the 1920's. That was a flourishing business – until the sound film arrived. The global economic crisis in the 1930's also created many difficulties for organ building. In the 125 years of the company's history, the company has built over 1000 organs, and at the moment its capacities are booked for the next three to four years. Those who order a new organ today have to plan for costs running into six or seven figures. Depending on the organ's size, the company needs 2,000 to 17,000 working hours to build it.
After 1945 many churches were rebuilt and the organ business was prospering. In those times a lot of assistance was provided electrically; the priority was to build artistic instruments with the limited means available back then. Today tradition and quality rank first again. Roman Seifert has radically shaken up the firm since he joined in the year 2000. One of his most meaningful experiences was studying first-hand the construction of a replica of a north German organ from the 17th century by Arp Schnitger. For Seifert building with solid wood is standard practice these days. In his workshop he stores oak wood boards, pine for the pipes and fruit wood for the small pipes. He enthuses about the high-mountain pines from the Laternser valley in Voralberg. Air-dried wood is a basic requirement for the quality and longevity of an organ.
Roman Seifert trained in his dream job at Orgelbau Rieger in Austria. The 35 year-old joined the family business at a relatively young age and is now in charge of 34 staff. Organ building is a team sport for him, but also often a love story. Building an organ generally takes more than a year. During this time all those involved build up a special relationship to their organ. The few good organ builders that still exist today will have plenty to do in the future too. Although virtually no new churches are being built these days, many of the interim organs that were built after the war have to be restored and their sound needs to be improved.
Orgelbau Romanus Seifert & Sohn GmbH & Co KG
Telefon: +49 (0) 28 32 93 18 0